Times like these allow us to stop and reflect on the world around us. Our very own Chloe Hardman, Marketing and Communications Officer here at the College, has put together a blog featuring some of her favourite photography that best sums up the co-operative movement. 

The world is a strange place right now.

City streets, usually bustling with culture, lie barren and lifeless. Miles of tarmac, once congested with teams of vehicles, only pave the way for essential workers on their benevolent commutes.

The earth is still, and ambivalently beautiful. 

As an amateur photographer, scenes like these make it difficult to stay indoors - imagine how rare it is to get a cityscape snap, with no vehicles, or pedestrians blocking the perfect shot? 

However, keeping those we love (and those on the front-line) safe is far more important than winning the next IPA photograph of the year award.

But it's not all doom and gloom! Across the world, the co-operative movement has been doing a fantastic job at keeping each and every one of us connected, offering a glimmer of hope throughout this alien time. 

It's because of this that I have spent the last few days collating my favourite images from the movement.

Rochdale Village (2006) 🇺🇸

Source: Flickr User: memyselfandflip

New York City. Home of the Brooklyn Bridge, Lady Liberty and... Rochdale? Yep that's right! Tucked away in Queen's lies Rochdale Village, the largest co-operative in the borough. Housing over 25,000 residents, Rochdale Village provides a hub of accommodation, leisure and business. What's more, the development's namesake is a homage to the birthplace of the Co-operative; Rochdale (UK)!

What I love about this photo

I love how the greens of the foliage combine so well with the tangerine coloured tower blocks. The photo also carries a lot of symbolism, with the bleakness of the melancholy sky, out of it comes a colourful rainbow; showing a sense of hope and pride in an area of uncertainty.


Nationaal Coöperatie Museum, Schiedam (2010) 🇳🇱

Source: Flickr User: Tim Boric

In recent times, the Co-operative movement has struggled in the Netherlands. The curtain fell on Co-op Netherlands in 1973, and most co-operatives were dissolved. However, The National Co-operative Museum still celebrates the country's rich history in the Co-operative movement and takes its visitors through the history of Dutch Consumer Co-operatives.

What I love about this photo

As well as photography, I have an unhealthy obsession with graphic design, so there's no way I couldn't include this - the typography is stunning and retro, yet could fit perfectly on any modern product packaging. The photo itself has a lovely vintage grading to it that fits the theme of the picture well. 

The Mobu Ke Khuta Co-operative, Masemouse (2018) 🇱🇸 

Source: Co-operative College Picture Library Photographer: International Projects Team

In summer 2012, we embarked on a three-year project to establish and develop an agricultural co-operative in Lesotho. Alongside the Chelmsford Star Co-operative and Connecting Communities Worldwide, the project aimed to help alleviate poverty, achieve sustainability, generate income and contribute to food security. Mobu Ke Khuata Co-operative – whose name means ‘soil is gold’ – aimed to grow fruit trees, produce honey and construct fish ponds to produce edible fish.

What I love about this photo

This photo encapsulates the spirit and emotion of the community perfectly. You would never have thought there was a drought going on in the area at the same time! 

Stanford Hall, Nottinghamshire (1979) 🇬🇧

Source: Co-operative College Picture Library Photographer: Unknown

As many of our followers will know, the Co-operative College hasn't always been based in Holyoake House. In fact, for a large part of our history, we were situated in the stunning Stanford Hall, Nottinghamshire. Whilst here, we ran residential courses for adult learners and a wide range of retail and management courses for co-operative employees. Here's a great photo of the class of 1979.

What I love about this photo

My colleagues at the Co-operative College know I'm not a big fan of "set up" photos. Not to discredit the art and patience that goes into them at all... I just prefer to capture the moment rather than force it. With that in mind, you might be asking "why have you chosen this photo, then?"  Just take a look in the windows above! 

Custom House Women's Guild, London (Unknown) 🇬🇧 

Source: Flickr Photographer: LovedayLemon

The co-operative movement has a rich history when it comes to "radical" shakeups to business. 

"Co-operative retailers have been pioneers of some of the flagship changes in business, from limiting working hours for employees to introducing Fairtrade. On gender equality they are proving leaders too, with double the number of women on their boards as other large businesses."
Helen Barber, Co-operatives UK

This isn't just applicable to the UK movement, but women across the world are benefitting from the co-operative model. 

What I love about this photo

I find the quality of historical pictures like this outstanding. I wasn't able to get a date for this photo, but I can certainly determine that it is old (wow, maybe I should be a historian?!). Despite it's age, there's hardly any loss of clarity. In fact, if you zoom in close enough on the original photo, you can make out the design on the badges they are wearing! 

Brudenell Grove Co-op, Leeds (2013) 🇬🇧 

Source: Flickr Picture Library Photographer: Clive Griffin

Co-op Food is possibly the most widely recognised consumer co-operative here in the UK. The brand is used by over 15 different co-operative societies which between them operate over 4,000 shops! The photo above is taken from the former site of one of the stores in Leeds, UK. 

What I love about this photo

The editing on this photo is great, with wonderful textures, gritty tone, and a lovely contrast in colours. The main focus of the building is obviously the gorgeous Edwardian roof. Interestingly this is positioned in the centre, which is apparently a big no-no in photography (see rule of thirds), but I'd disagree and say that this is definitely the right composition for this building.   

Mondragon University, Basque Country (2012) 🇪🇸 

Source: Flickr Photographer: Deborah Bruce

Tucked away in the mountains of the Basque country, lies the beautiful municipality of Mondragon. The town itself is universally known for being the cradle of the co-operative movement, as it houses the MCC (The world's largest Co-operative). It's also serves as a base for The Mondragon University (pictured). 

What I love about this photo

Brr! The colours and grading in this photo make you feel cold, that's even before you acknowledge the snow in the foreground. The tone also compliments the brutalist design of the main subject of the photo (the university building)


Source: Flickr Photographer: Deborah Bruce

I can't confirm where in the town of Mondragón this photo was taken, and so therefore, it may not be relevant to the co-operative movement. However, I wanted to include this as the symmetry and lines are just spot on! A truly stunning representation of the town's architecture. 

Projekts Skate Park, Manchester (2019) 🇬🇧 

Source: Co-operative College Picture Library Photographer: Chloe Hardman

As well providing training for organisations, we have a strong charity arm. Our youth projects run throughout the UK and include some exciting trips to local co-operatives and social enterprises. This particular photo is from our Youth Co-operative Action Project and their visit to Projeks skatepark.  This was a unique session, working together to learn new skills, and wearing yellow socks as a "hidden message" to combat youth loneliness.

What I love about this photo

As you may have seen in the credits of the photo, this is one of my own! It's not perfect, but I feel like it sums up the activities of the day in an abstract way. 

And that's it!

There's a plethora of fantastic photography that represents the movement, so use image search websites like Flickr and you'll find what you're looking for. Also, Be sure to check out the portfolios of the photographers I've included in this list.

Finally, if you're interested in learning more about Co-operative history, especially in media, check out this great webinar our friends at the Co-operative Heritage Trust did as part of our webinar series!